More commentary on AgResearch plans

By Grant Jacobs 15/08/2013

Since my initial piece on AgResearch’s announcement to move most of it’s staff at the Invermay research centre, along with a similar move from their Ruakura research centre, there has been a string of commentary pieces in the Dunedin newspaper.

My earlier focus was mainly on how this might affect staff and projects at AgResearch and a concern that this proposal was not brought to the public in the first instance given that the shareholders of the CRIs are, in effect, the public (being Crown institutes) and that the initiatives totalled would have a very considerable cost. In addition to the cost of the proposed Lincoln hub (apparently ~$100 million), there are the costs for the Ruakura shift, the lost productivity during the transition, potential loss of collaborations and so on.

Earlier commentary included a former AgResearch scientist and recent recipient of the ONZM is this opinion piece by Doug Edmeades, AgResearch shakeup not positive, AgResearch CEO Tom Richardson offering his side, reportage from the ODT such as an headlined article, Joyce urged to save jobs, and the editor calling for concerns to be expressed and others including Exodus of scientists feared by former scientist Invermay director Conway Powell.

More recently an opinion piece by Gordon Cossens, a former MAF scientist at Invermay and Alexandra (Corporate ways unsuited to research), and an interview of former Invermay director Jock Allison by Sally Rae (Decision on Invermay ‘complete lunacy’) share the thought that the present-day AgResearch has “almost disappeared in the eyes of the farmer”.

Both these men opine that the commercial model does not suit research science and praise the basic science work of MAF and it’s ties to the farming community. The latter sentiments about MAF are ones I’ve often heard from others.

I’m sure that there are arguments various ways on this, but one thought that occurs to me for this particular situation (the lost of MAF services these men refer to) is that it is not a case of either the commercial approach or a farmer-assistance advisory approach, but that commercial approach might be added to extend the primary product chain that is assisted by the latter. (This is well away from my expertise, but the accounts others’ paint imply an either/or situation from political forces or senior figures’ ideas, with the new replacing the old, rather than the new commercial elements being added to the product pathway, as it were.)

On the political front, there has been a regional summit meeting in Dunedin, with a media conference following. They aim to overturn the transfer of 85 jobs from Invermay. I recall that in his early response the Minister for Science indicated that the shift of jobs themselves was not on the table. (Annoyingly I’ve not been able to relocate the source of this.) By contrast, Prime Minister John Key was quoted saying it is not: “who said yesterday he was encouraged by the regional approach and stressed the AgResearch proposal was ”far from a done deal”.”

Other articles on Code for life:

AgResearch moving house – let’s have the full picture

Ag Science hub to form near Christchurch, New Zealand

Crown Research Institute merger calls

0 Responses to “More commentary on AgResearch plans”

  • Perhaps you can promote the following survey and petition
    one for scientists , one for general public (scientists can do both petition and survey)

    1. Petition for general public
    “We call on the minister of science and innovation Steven Joyce, the NZ cabinet and prime minister John Keys to review the business case submitted by the Agresearch board and to stop restructuring and relocating staff from Agresearch facilities to new facilities in Selwyn and Palmerston North. We believe they are not in New Zealand’s national interest. The proposed job relocations and restructuring will lead to a loss of skilled scientists from New Zealand and have major regional negative economic impact and destroy existing linkages with universities, farmers, other scientists and local business partners”

    2. Science staff survey:
    Agresearch staff stakeholder survey:
    You are invited to take part in this important survey measuring employee satisfaction at Agresearch. This survey should only take 5-7 min to complete. This survey is independent of any Agresearch internal reviews you may have responded to and Agresearch management will not be able to access your response. The author of this survey is opposed to the proposed changes and has set out his reasoning This survey is designed to obtain a snapshot of research staff job satisfaction and morale in the context of proposed job losses and relocations as announced in Agresearch’s planned new ‘footprint’; and & ‘innovation hubs’; to be established 2013 to 2017 as per its board’s SCI (statement of corporate intent). This survey will not identify individuals and responses will be collated and used to provide feedback to decision makers and interested parties. This survey is intended to capture responses from Agsearch’s most valuable and important stakeholders, namely the highly skilled scientific staff doing the research Agresearch prides itself with.